In this fight, we need you now more than ever

By Gina Crista Cummings
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There is so much we can accomplish together.

Last year was filled with unprecedented challenges, and so far, 2021 has been much the same. But even in the midst of pain and division, Gina Cummings—a nearly 15-year veteran of Oxfam and our new vice president of Advocacy, Alliances and Policy—carries immense hope for what we can accomplish together.

I am thrilled to be in this role, as it gives me the incredible opportunity to work alongside you and our partners as we fight to end poverty and inequality here and around the world. We need each other, now more than ever, as we tackle some of the most important issues of our time.

Inauguration day marks a historic moment. It’s the first time we’ve elected a Black, Indian or biracial woman to the office of vice president. We saw historic voter turnout in the middle of a pandemic. We joined more than 150 million others to make our voices heard. This is democracy at work. We are the democracy. It’s not something that happens to us. Democracy works because we vote.

I know we’re facing huge challenges; COVID-19 has highlighted our deepest, most systemic inequalities.  But we have the opportunity to move the needle on poverty and inequality in significant ways—through democracy, dialogue, and partnership. Together, we can make a difference on issues that are critical to marginalized communities here in the US and around the world.

Here are some things I’m excited about in this upcoming year.

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1. Immediate actions by the Biden administration

You’ve been advocating with us on many issues over the last few years, and with the incoming administration we now have the opportunity to see some of this work pay off. We are celebrating these wins while pushing the Biden administration and Congress to go beyond Biden’s existing promises to ensure meaningful, lasting change. We are thrilled that President Biden carried out the following actions on day one:

Ending the Muslim Ban

We have challenged this ban every step of the way. Its impact is real and severe; it has torn families apart and institutionalized religious discrimination. In response, we joined protests at airports, the White House, and the Supreme Court. When the Trump administration expanded the ban, you signed petitions to tell President Trump—and the world—that we opposed it. And you made hundreds of calls to Congress supporting the NO BAN Act, which passed the House of Representatives in July and would prevent any such ban from ever being implemented again.

President Biden ended the Muslim Ban by executive order on his first day in office. This will make a huge difference to those families directly impacted by this discriminatory measure. We are holding him to this promise and look forward to this policy coming to an end. This is a first step toward more robust action to protect the rights of immigrants, migrants and all people who leave home seeking safety and opportunity. Repealing the Muslim Ban should happen immediately, but we expect much more from the administration to unwind President Trump’s racist, xenophobic restrictions on immigrants, refugees and migrants and deliver on long overdue reforms to make the US the beacon of hope and opportunity it should be.

Re-joining the Paris climate agreement

When President Trump announced the US would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change in 2017, you responded with a resounding rejoinder: “I’m still in.” Through our Dignity for All effort, you called on the next president to rejoin Paris, increase US funding for climate aid and finance, help decrease emissions from our food systems, and make sure that women and indigenous groups have a seat at the table to make plans and decisions on climate change.

President Biden re-entered the Paris Agreement by executive order his first day in office. We held him accountable to this promise, and are now challenging his administration to make its climate policy bigger and bolder. Climate change has had a devastating impact on real families around the world. As the US re-joins the agreement, we must ensure our government increases its efforts to protect those who are most impacted by the devastating effects of climate change.

Ending the war in Yemen

As the hunger crisis in Yemen worsens, it is crucial for us to continue pressuring the US government to stop fueling this conflict. President Biden has promised to end our country’s role in the war, including by ending arms sales--something he's taken action on in his first weeks in office. We will keep pressuring the new administration to revoke the terrorism designation and turn the page on our country’s failed policy in Yemen. For the US government to be a credible peace broker, we need to end our one-sided approach to the conflict and put the Yemeni people first.

These are just three actions that we are excited for President Biden to take immediately on inauguration day. We look forward to pushing the Biden administration and Congress to act on even more issues within his first 100 days and beyond.

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Graphic by Sandra Stowe / Oxfam America

2. Expanding our COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 pandemic has been the defining crisis of the last year. It has highlighted profound systemic inequalities that exist throughout our society and worsened already entrenched racial, economic, and gender disparities. As the pandemic rages on, we must continue to highlight how this crisis is exacerbating poverty and inequality and its effects on real people.

With your support, we’ll continue our response in key ways. First, through our ongoing humanitarian efforts, and second, by advocating that our government protect those who are suffering the most from this pandemic.

Ongoing relief efforts

Because of your support, Oxfam has been able to reach more than 11 million people in 63 countries with lifesaving relief--including sanitation supplies, cash, and emergency food and livelihood assistance. Your generosity and actions have had a tangible impact on millions of people around the world. In the coming months, we want to reach even more people with the resources they need.

We will also hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire when it comes to COVID-19 relief. Millions of vulnerable families need support in the form of cash payments, child care, worker protections, and more. The US also needs to commit significant funding to the global fight against COVID-19, so that we can end this pandemic once and for all. Now is not the time for half-measures or tinkering around the edges. People need support now.

The people’s vaccine

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out around the world, we are continuing to advocate for a people’s vaccine—one that is free, fair, and accessible to everyone. Currently, nine out of 10 people in low-income countries will not receive a vaccine this year, compared to countries such as the US and Britain—which have commitments for enough vaccines to immunize their populations three times over.

Pharmaceutical companies must share the science, technology, and know-how behind their vaccines, or billions of people could miss out. Governments must ensure that the pharmaceutical industry puts peoples’ lives before profits. No one is safe from COVID-19 until everyone is safe.


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3. Working with allies and supporters

The collaborative nature of our work with supporters and allies allows us to elevate the lived experiences of people and communities in their fight against poverty and injustice. From Mississippi to Kenya, our partners cross all levels of society—from government officials to international stakeholders, grassroots organizers to community leaders, and more. These partnerships allow Oxfam to work in coalition to do the kind of far-reaching advocacy that is needed. We can’t solve systemic inequality on our own.

Our allyship with the communities and organizers who are being affected by the issues we care about—from gender justice to climate change—is what allows our work to have impact. Working with allies guarantees that we have perspectives that aren’t just our own. It makes the work richer. Because of our partners and allies, we never stop learning and growing.

We’re also inspired and encouraged by you, our supporters. Thank you for raising your voices, for advocating for a world that is more just. As we look forward to a new year and a new administration, your ongoing support keeps us hopeful and energized. Together, we’ll seize every opportunity for action to create bold, long-term change that brings forth a future where everyone, everywhere can thrive.

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